As the New York Times reports and you doubtless already know, Facebook’s appointed Oversight Board yesterday declined to lift the company’s ban on former President Donald Trump utilizing the platform, directing the company to clarify its rules and come back in six months for another review:
A Facebook-appointed panel of journalists, activists and lawyers on Wednesday upheld the social network’s ban of former President Donald J. Trump, ending any immediate return by Mr. Trump to mainstream social media and renewing a debate about tech power over online speech.
Facebook’s Oversight Board, which acts as a quasi-court over the company’s content decisions, ruled the social network was right to bar Mr. Trump after the insurrection in Washington in January, saying he “created an environment where a serious risk of violence was possible.” The panel said that ongoing risk “justified” the move.
But the board also kicked the case back to Facebook and its top executives. It said that an indefinite suspension was “not appropriate” because it was not a penalty defined in Facebook’s policies and that the company should apply a standard punishment, such as a time-bound suspension or a permanent ban. The board gave Facebook six months to make a final decision on Mr. Trump’s account status.
CBS4 Denver has the reaction from Colorado’s minority Republican congressional delegation, and they are uniformly on full-tilt outrage. Rep. Ken Buck, whose crusade against Big Tech’s allegedly censorious ways predates Trump’s post-insurrection social media blackout, invoked the nastiest (and most dreadfully overused) comparison in the GOP playbook, Communist Gyna:
Following the news that Facebook Oversight Committee upheld former President Donald Trump’s ban, the three Republican members of Colorado’s Congressional Delegation were quick to react.
Rep. Ken Buck went to the social media platform itself, posting a link to an NPR article about the decision and commenting: “Silencing former leaders is something they do in Communist China, Big Tech has too much power.”
Not to be outdone, Rep. Lauren Boebert apparently thinks someone has been executed?
3rd District Rep. Lauren Boebart voiced her criticism on Twitter, tweeting “The Facebook Oversight Board acted as the judge, jury, prosecutor, appellate court and executioner. Big Tech needs to be broken up.”
Even Colorado’s least charismatic member of Congress, Rep. Doug Lamborn, took a swing:
“Unfortunately, Facebook’s decision to keep the ban on President Trump comes as no surprise. No social media company should have the power to entirely block a public official from communicating with the American people. Facebook’s oversight board is a farce. We must reign in #BigTech.”
Here we come to the central issue, which is the idea as Lamborn falsely suggests that Facebook has the ability to “entirely block a public official from communicating with the American people.” As we saw this week with the much-hyped launch of former President Trump’s blog, Trump is fully able to communicate with the American people online as much as he wants. He’s just not doing it on private commercial social media networks who have the full authority–let’s go a step farther and call it a right–to deny the use of their system to people who misuse it for criminal purposes like inciting a riot.
Though we certainly do not have the reach of a global platform like Facebook, we do have some experience on this blog with regulating the limits of content we consider inappropriate, undesirable, or any other way we might choose to evaluate what our readers post in comments and community blogs. Our standards are liberal enough that we’re generally accused of not policing content adequately as opposed to allegations of censorship, but we absolutely retain the right to moderate posted content and deny access to abusive users. If, for example, readers started plotting in comments to overthrow the state government, we’d feel an obligation to stop that.
In short, there’s a huge disconnect between the “free market” values these conservatives claim to uphold and their allegation that these private companies have committed some kind of unconstitutional suppression of former President Trump’s free speech rights. Free speech is not and has never been an entitlement to somebody else’s broadcast platform to amplify your speech at their expense. The violent insurrection on January 6th directly caused by the refusal of Trump (and for that matter, Boebert and Lamborn) to accept the results of the 2020 elections is ample cause to to permanently ban Trump from any private platform that wishes to.